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Monday, December 5, 2016

Meet Kathryn Bradley MD

For those who follow this blog regularly, you know that a big detour got thrown into my Parkinson's disease road trip when I found out that my Movement Disorder Specialist, Dr. Sherman, was no longer on my insurance companies list of clinicians I could see. I would need to find a new doctor. I was not a Happy Parkie and found no humor in this detour at all.

Luckily, I managed to find a replacement, Dr. Kathryn Bradley, also in Tucson, and in the same medical practice as the neurosurgeon who did my DBS surgery, Dr. Norton. When I called for an appointment, the first "new patient" one they had wasn't until February. I could wait.

I had met Dr. Bradley once, when she came to Yuma with Dr. Norton for a seminar I helped arrange. She had attended the University of Arizona Medical School in Tucson before going on to Vanderbilt in Tennessee for the rest of her training. 

Since I was going to Tucson in November to speak to the medical school students, I decided to write to her and explain my situation. I didn't need any adjustments to my DBS settings or any medication refills, I just needed to get established. Perhaps, they could squeeze me in, on one of two specific days? A few days later, I got a call, and an appointment the same day I would be in Tucson. It pays to take time to write a letter (in fact, that's how I got diagnosed!)

I went to my appointment and to be honest, I didn't expect much. I knew they had squeezed me in, so I expected a quick hello and see me again in six months kind of visit. I was wrong. Dr. Bradley gave me one of the most thorough neurological exams I have ever had. She did the usual open/close hands, thumb/finger touches and watched me walk. She had me follow her finger with my eyes and looked into my eyes with a light. She used the little reflex hammer on my knees, ankles, wrists and elbows. She had me push up/down with my arms, squeeze her hands with mine. She had me take off my shoes and socks and ran the sharp thing along the bottom of my feet. She checked my balance by tugging me from behind. 

She asked me about my other medical history, sleeping, exercise and eating habits. She was surprised I was doing so well with such low voltage settings and the little amount of carbi/levodopa medication I was taking, especially after finding out I have had Parkinson's for 20 years or so. I told her that Dr. Norton had obviously found the right spot. Needless to say, I was very impressed.

YumaBev & Dr, Kathryn Bradley

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

DBS Update: Four years later

Well, it is now FOUR years since I had DBS for my Parkinson's. 

My DBS stimulation settings are lower than they were a year ago and I am taking less Parkinson's medication and yet, I am doing better physically. 

This makes no sense to my former and current Parkinson's specialists or my Medtronic representative. I saw all three of them when I spoke to the Medical School students in November 2016.

According to the Medtronic rep, my DBS settings are below "clinical therapeutic values."  

I don't know why these settings work for me, but they do. 
DBS settings Nov 2016

I got a new camera since my three year update, and it isn't compatible with the Movie Maker software on my ancient PC, so I can't provide a video update. 

This was one day's worth of medication prior to DBS.
3 Requip, 7 Sinemet, 1 Thryoid

This is one day's worth now! 

1/2 Sinemet, 1 Thyroid

Quite a difference, right?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

World Parkinson Congress - Day One

Our first full day of the World Parkinson Congress started late because we both overslept. I guess all the travel caught up with us. Our hotel, the Quality Inn, had a free breakfast buffet included, and we managed to get there right before they closed. As we were eating, a lady with a WPC badge (I think the entire hotel was filled with attendees) recognized me and asked me about DBS. I explained the procedure and gave her the link to My DBS Story blog

We headed over to the Convention Center to hear Dr. Okun speak about what to expect long term with DBS, but instead he spoke about using DBS for other purposes. Someone tapped me on my shoulder. It was Sherryl Klingelhofer from Tillamook, Oregon! She is a Master Fitness Trainer who makes videos of Parkinson's specific exercises (link on left sidebar.) Her Dad had PD. She is staying at the same hotel as we are. It was exciting getting to meet her in person!

We walked over to the exhibit hall where I had a meeting with Emilie, one of the representatives of St. Jude Medical (another DBS manufacturer.) St. Jude had the best multi-berry smoothies at their booth. 

As we were finishing up, her next appointment arrived and it was Karl Robb, from Virginia, another long time online friend! Karl is a blogger and author and also runs a PD support group. A link to his Soft Voice blog is on the left sidebar. Karl was diagnosed with PD at 23.

We visited a bit, and then we wandered around and saw Sara Rigarre from Sweden! Sara blogs about self care awareness at Quantified Self. Sara has had PD symptoms since she was 13.

Next I filmed a Tips & Tricks spot for my Twitter friend David Sangster from the United Kingdom and The Cure Parkinson's Trust. David was diagnosed at 29 and runs the Young Parkinsons Network in Manchester, England. 

As I was leaving David, I ran into Gretchen and Michael Church from Florida! They are married authors, advocates and both were diagnosed in their 30's. Both have had DBS surgery. 

I walked over to take a look at the selection of books in the Book Nook and took a picture of my book.

By this time, the day's events at the Convention Center were winding down and we only made it to one educational seminar (Dr. Okun.)

We walked back to our hotel, relaxed a bit and updated my Facebook and Twitter pages and then went to the Support Group Leader Reception (more free food) at the nearby Doubletree hotel.   

We sat with Karyn from Australia and the Radio Parkies group. My Wonderful Husband was a radio station and nightclub DJ in his working life, so he really enjoyed learning how they broadcast over the internet. We agreed to stop by their broadcast room sometime tomorrow for an interview.
Christine and Andre Radio Parkies

Sherryl was there, too, and we walked back to our hotel together. She told me she saw us yesterday when we were checking in. She was swimming in the pool. I saw a woman swimming, but didn't recognize her (probably because she wasn't wearing her trademark hat!) It was another full day of fun and I can't believe how many celebrities in the world of Parkinson's disease I've met already! 

You probably noticed I am wearing a jacket in almost every picture. It was 107° when we left Yuma, so being in Portland where the temperature was about 68° was cold to me. When I get chilled, I scrunch up and it causes me pain.   

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

World Parkinson Congress - Opening Day

Our trip to the World Parkinson Congress was almost complete. We only had a short drive to get there, so we stopped to see the famous Multnomah Falls, which is just 30 miles east of Portland, Oregon. This scenic waterfall is visible from I-84, a main east-west highway. In fact, there is a parking area between the east and westbound lanes so you can stop and walk under the highway to get a close up look. We took a few photos and a selfie or two and then drove to our hotel. 

It was early for check-in, but they had one room ready, so we parked in the garage and took our stuff to the room. Then we walked the block and a half to the Convention Center to pick up our name tags at the registration table and pick up our WPC satchels full of goodies. 

We were headed back outside to find a restaurant when a WPC volunteer offered us each a box lunch from a table stacked high with them. We told her we were NOT part of the pre-congress seminars, and that we had just checked in. She said, go ahead and eat. It was after 2pm and we were hungry, so we sat outside and ate.  

After lunch (which was yummy) we went to find the Poster Session area and hung my poster display. 
YumaBev with her Poster display

We tried to get the general layout of the place; where the sponsor/exhibitors were, where the big events would take place, and most importantly, where the restrooms were. As we were wandering around, I saw Michelle Haub from Kansas. We'd met at a Davis Phinney Victory Summit a while back. Several people came up to me and asked if I was YumaBev. Most had read this blog or my Parkinson's Humor book and recognized me from the photos. It was great meeting them and giving and getting hugs.

By this time, my shoulder was hurting from carrying the satchel. It must have weighed at least 4 pounds. 
WPC goody bag

We walked back over to the hotel, and took a quick nap. Then we changed into dressier clothes and walked back over for the WPC Buddy Reception. My Las Vegas friend Kip was one of the Buddy Program coordinators and he was there with his wife Kitty. I never did meet my assigned Buddy; she had other plans that evening.

I did, however, FINALLY get to meet Karyn in person. Karyn lives in Australia and is the chat room friend who convinced me to start this blog! Karyn started a Young Onset PD group in Australia called Young @ Park, blogged about her DBS surgery and is active in the PD community.
Karyn from Australia and YumaBev

It was wonderful to see her and get to talk in person. Also there was my Buddy from the Montreal WPC, Nancy. Karyn's Buddy, Robynn was there, also. We all had been emailing each other for several months, so we had a great time visiting with each other.

Next thing we knew, it was time to go to the Opening Ceremony. Karyn sat with us. The WPC Choir sang (they rehearsed online!) and then there was the opening speeches and welcome to Portland video from the Mayor. Brian Grant, a former NBA basketball player, who has Parkinson's spoke. Then Muhammad Ali's eldest daughter, Maryum spoke. 

Then we all moved to the Sponsor Exhibit hall for the Welcome Reception. Almost every exhibitor had either food or beverages of some sort. There were egg rolls, sandwiches, smoothies, and desserts. We ran into others I knew online, checked out the exhibits and snacked. Soon it was over and we walked back to our hotel.

It was a fabulous day, but I was exhausted and went right to sleep.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Everything is Peachy

This story begins twelve years ago. My Wonderful Husband I were still living and traveling full time in a RV back then. We were staying at a campground, near the Columbia River in Oregon during the summer of 2004.  

The campground was situated along a tributary river that fed into the Columbia and we were lucky enough to get one of the few riverfront campsites. We had a tree close to the water on our site so we had some shade. We'd sit in our lawn chairs and watch the people fishing and water skiing. We could even see the big barges going down the Columbia. It was Heaven. 
Riverfront camping in 2004

The weekend came and people showed up with their tents, campers and boats. A family who was camping near us, but not on the water, asked if they could tie their boat up to the tree, so they wouldn't have to trailer it in and out all weekend. Absolutely, we said, and thought no more about it. 

The next morning, someone knocked at our door. It was the boater with a paper bag full of fresh fruit. We said thank you. There were cherries, apples, and peaches. I ate an apple with my breakfast and my Wonderful Husband had some cherries, both were delicious.

We weren't sure what we would do with the peaches. I had tried fresh peaches before and didn't like them. Wonderful Hubby had fruit allergies as a child, so he had never tried fresh peaches.

The next morning we decided to try one of the peaches. I didn't like the taste or texture, but my Wonderful Husband absolutely loved them. We asked the boater where, exactly, he had gotten the fruit. For the rest of that summer, we went across the river to an orchard in Washington. I'd get apples and he'd get peaches. 

When we got back to Yuma in the Fall, he bought peaches in the grocery store and they were awful. We never made it back to Oregon, so Wonderful Hubby never got good peaches again. 

Fast forward twelve years and the World Parkinson Congress  (WPC) is in Portland, Oregon. The route I planned to get there wasn't the shortest or the most direct but it would take us right near that orchard from a dozen years ago. I didn't know if it would still be there or if they would have any peaches left, but I was willing to take a chance. I didn't tell Wonderful Hubby because I didn't want to get his hopes up. 

As we were driving along I-84, enjoying the view of Mt. Hood in the distance and watching the barges on the Columbia River on our right, we drove past that campground we had stayed at so many years before.  

All of a sudden, Wonderful Hubby remembered the peaches and asks if I remember where the orchard was. Yes, I said, the bridge is up ahead and I've been planning on stopping there ever since I found out the WPC was going to be in Portland. 

We went across the river and turned down the side road to the orchard, keeping our fingers crossed. The trees were barren, but up ahead the fruit stand was open and there were boxes of peaches! 

Wonderful Hubby jumped out and went inside. They had picked the last peaches of the season a day or two before and would be closing the stand in a few days. They cut one open so he could have a taste. It was delicious, he said. He ended up eating the rest of it and he bought a whole box of peaches from their cooler, so they'd stay fresh longer. After all, we wouldn't get back home for about a week.

Box of Peaches

Now all I had to do was make room in our car. I hadn't thought about this part. We squeezed them in between our suitcases and headed off to Portland. It was colder in the hotel garage than in our room, so we left them in the car during the WPC.

On our way home, they got moved inside at each stop and placed right in front of the room air conditioner. They made it all the way back home to Yuma and he shared some with the neighbors. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him savor every bite.

Everything about our trip to Portland turned out to be just PEACHY! 

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Hitting the Jackpot

The Karaoke Finals were done and now we had two and a half days to get to Portland, Oregon for the World Parkinson Congress. We left early Sunday morning and got through Las Vegas before the traffic got bad. We topped off the gas tank and headed north through the desert on Highway 93.  

Northbound, we had the road to ourselves; there were no cars in front of us and none in the rearview mirror. Southbound was a different story. We kept seeing sports cars whizzing past us. Corvettes one right after another. They had signs on their driver doors, but we couldn't read them, they were just a blur. Must be a Sunday morning car club cruise, we thought. Then we noticed other cars with signs on their doors flying by; Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, Dodge Charger, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Nissan 350Z and Mercedes. This was definitely not a Sunday cruise. 
FAST Camaro

When we got to the NV 318 shortcut, the road was closed northbound and a State Trooper was parked nearby. There was a yellow Corvette parked off the side of the road, with a sign on the door, so we pulled alongside, in my yellow Sonic and asked what was going on. It was a charity event called the Silver State Classic, a legal way to drive your car as fast as you want. Since the event wasn't over and we needed to keep moving, we turned around and took the long way which added an extra hour or so to our travel day. 
YumaBev's NOT VERY FAST Sonic

As we headed north, several of these sports cars passed us. They had license plates from States north of Nevada, so we assumed they had already raced and were now heading back home.
Very FAST Corvette

It was getting dark when we got to Jackpot, Nevada, where we stopped for the night. We watched some TV and went to bed early. When we got up the next morning, there was a old 1940's Ford parked next to us, with the Silver State Classic sign on its door. He must have a souped-up engine in that old car!    

Hey! I have an idea. How about a "Fast Cars for Slow Parkies" fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation? 

What should have been a very boring drive ended up being exciting as we watched all the exotic cars zoom past us. We definitely hit the Jackpot. 

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Surprises at the Karaoke Finals

We were all packed for our trip and our first stop was only 200 miles north of Yuma. We decided to go see the Talent Quest International Karaoke Finals in Laughlin, NV on our way to Portland, Oregon. We hadn't been back since the dance contest incident back in 2011.

We had such a great time the last time, I don't know why we haven't gone back. I think we just got lazy. It's easier to just stay at home. But since it was on the way, we decided to go. We got there on Thursday, and watched some of the preliminary rounds. The talent was very good. I don't know how the judges narrowed it down each round. I spotted a contestant wearing the perfect karaoke t-shirt while watching his girlfriend compete.

All the competitions were held in the same venue, so it went on from 10 am until almost midnight each day. There were six categories, Male & Female Pop, Male & Female Country, Male & Female Masters (over 50 years old and can sing any type of music) plus Duets. There were singers from all over the USA as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and some who appeared to be speaking Russian when they weren't singing. I always find it amazing when people can sing in American with no discernible accent but can't speak that way.

For the Saturday night Finals, they had narrowed it down to five singers in each category, plus two duets. By this time, we had heard some contestants sing a couple of times. Each contestant had to sing a different song in each round and they were judged not only on their singing ability, but also on their costumes, stage presence and showmanship. You couldn't just stand there in a t-shirt and sing; you had to put on a show. I bet they all had extra luggage fees.

Their outfits were amazing. There was colorful lamé fabric, skin tight jeans sprayed with fabric shine, sequins, bright belt buckles, fancy hats, rhinestones and glitter everywhere. And these were the MEN!!!

The ladies were dressed up, too. But none took the time to pose for pictures. I think they were in a hurry to get back into their comfortable clothes. 

The camaraderie between the contestants reminded me of our Parkinson's disease community. They were giving each other encouragement, and sharing hats, belts and rhinestone bling as well as offering helpful tips. Some come back every year, not to compete, but to visit with the others.

During one of the elimination rounds, I saw a familiar face in the audience. It was RL Bell, a contestant on America's Got Talent. I walked over and said hello and told him how much I enjoyed him on the show. He was very friendly, so I told him about this blog and asked if I could have a picture with him, and he said yes. 
YumaBev and RL Bell

The Finals started at 7 pm and we got there early to get a good seat. You had to buy tickets for the Finals ($12) but all the other rounds were free. What a deal.

All the singers were very good, and during a break between categories, they had a wedding. Yes, a wedding. One of the Talent Quest staff got married to a former contestant. They said all their friends were here, so they decided to go ahead and get married. Only the bride, groom and one emcee knew about it ahead of time. That was an unexpected surprise. 

During another break, one of last years winners sang. Then RL Bell sang and the winner of the Duets from the 2011 contest sang. I recognized them, too. When the winners were announced, I was in total agreement with their choices. I wonder if they need any judges? Nah, being a spectator is much better.   
Duets winners from 2011
It was after midnight before the "show" was over. It was, by far, the best $12 I've spent in years. 

Reminder to self, don't be lazy, make plans to go again next year.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Health Insurance Companies...BOO !!

So there I was, cruising along down the Parkinson's Disease Highway in my very own Happy Parkie bus.

The weather was sunny, there wasn't much traffic and the road was well-maintained. I was enjoying the ride as well as the scenery, just relaxing and listening to my humorous song parodies on the radio. 

All of a sudden, up ahead, I saw a huge barricade across the road. "ROAD CLOSED!" the sign said.

Well, not really. It was my computer screen shouting at me. Or was it me shouting at my computer screen? Does it even matter? I was getting upset and everyone knows stress is bad for Parkies. So, WHY was I upset?

I was on my Medicare Advantage Plan website, checking to make sure all of my Doctors were still in-network before calling to make my regular October appointments. Dermatologist, yes. Primary Care Doctor, yes. Gynecologist, yes. Nearby laboratory, yes. All my appointments are made. Smooth roads ahead.

Hmm, while I am on here, I better double check and make sure Dr. Sherman; my Movement Disorder Specialist is on the list. After all, I already have an appointment with him in November, right after I speak to his class of medical school students

Warning! Warning! ROAD CLOSED ahead! 

My Happy Parkie bus came to a screeching stop, sliding sideways and kicking up a cloud of dirt. 

Dr. Sherman's name wasn't popping up like the others. I re-entered the Tucson zip code and carefully typed S-h-e-r-m-a-n. Nothing! I tried a different Tucson zip code, still no Sherman. No matter what I tried, Sherman was no longer on my insurance company list of Doctors THEY think I should see.

I don't need this right now. I am leaving tomorrow morning for Portland. I sent Dr. Sherman a quick email, and tried to calm down and finish packing for our trip. As I went to sleep, the words "Continuity of Care" kept bouncing around in my head. I know how important it is to have an established team of health care professionals, especially with a chronic disease like Parkinson's. 

"Continuity of Care is concerned with quality of care over time. It is the process by which the patient and his/her physician-led care team are cooperatively involved in ongoing health care management toward the shared goal of high quality, cost-effective medical care."

My Continuity of Care just evaporated. I will need to find another Movement Disorder Specialist. IF I can find one accepting new patients, it will likely mean a six-month wait for an appointmentThis means pages of paperwork for my Wonderful Husband to fill out, again. Plus I will need to educate my new Doctor about me and my DBS settings; what they have tried in the past; what worked and what didn't. In other words, this will be a huge pain in the neck. 

Morning comes and I have decided to deal with it when I get back home from Portland.

I check my email and there is a reply from Dr. Sherman. He knew nothing about the insurance change, and says he will try to work something out for my upcoming visit.

I asked a doctor friend how they decide what insurance they will take and was told they have little choice in the matter. The insurance companies decide how many providers they need in an area, and then they pick the ones they want and sign them up. 

Don't our insurance companies realize how difficult it is to change doctors? Do they even care? It's not like I can just call one and get an appointment for next week.

I don't WANT to find a new Parkinson's specialist. I like the one I have. 
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Friday, September 9, 2016

Sad Feet to Happy Feet

My feet had been bothering me for several months. The pain was different than last year. I wasn't sure what was wrong with my feet, but I thought I had better find out. I called to make an appointment with a Podiatrist and hoped I could get in before October. The receptionist asked if I could come in the next day. I said YES. Apparently someone had cancelled right before I called. Lucky me.

I stopped by later that day and picked up the forms so my Wonderful Husband could fill them out for me. The next morning I went in for my appointment. I explained to the Doctor that my feet hurt intermittently; some days were bad, other days I had no pain at all. He asked if they hurt when I first got out of bed (plantar fasciitis) and I said no. He had me walk, stand and manipulated my feet. He said my Achilles tendons were very tight and my one leg was shorter than the other. He grimaced when I told him I had Parkinson's and a DBS neuro-stimulator. He said having Parkinson's complicates things. Duh!

He put a lift in the heel of my one shoe and gave me some stretching exercises to do and said come back to see me in a month if you don't have any improvement. 

I went home and did the stretching exercises. Since this looked like something I would have to figure out on my own, I started paying very close attention to how my feet were affected by my Parkinson's medication cycle and DBS settings.  

I noticed that when my Parkie meds kicked in, two things happened. My feet would stretch and twist themselves awkwardly and I would walk on my tip toes, but only for about 10 minutes. If I was sitting down during these twice daily episodes, my feet were fine. If I was standing or walking when it happened, then my feet would hurt the rest of the day. This explained the intermittent foot pain. 

Since I was only taking half of a carbi/levodopa pill twice a day for my speech issues, cutting back wasn't an option, unless I wanted to be mute. (No snide comments from the boys out there!) 

I lowered my DBS settings a bit, but the stiffness and slowness returned. I tried adding another half a pill with the lower settings and finally found a good combination. I lowered my DBS settings by 2 tenths on each side and increased the carbi/levodopa to four halves a day and actually improved my speech! 

Within a few days of figuring all this out, my feet stopped hurting. I am still doing the stretches the doctor ordered. This Happy Parkie now has Happy Feet. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Driving Your Own Parkinson's Bus

I see Dr. Scott J. Sherman, my Parkinson's disease specialist, once or twice a year. It's not that I don't like him, I do. He has a great sense of humor and he seems to know more than most Neurologists about Parkinson's and DBS. But he's 240 miles from home, and to be honest, there is no medical reason for me to see him more often. 
Dr. Scott Sherman and YumaBev
There are 24 hours in a day, which means there are 8760 hours in a year and I spend maybe ONE of those hours with my Parkie Doc. That means my Parkinson's disease is managed by ME for the other 8759 hours or 525,540 minutes of each year.

My ONE visit with Dr Sherman in 2016
Dr. Sherman has no idea whether I am taking my medicines as he directed. He has no idea what my current DBS settings are. He has no idea what my symptoms are like, except during those few minutes that I see him. My Wonderful Husband doesn't even know exactly what I go through each day and he lives with me!  

It is up to ME to figure out what works best for ME. If the Doctor says, take this pill three times a day, it's up to me to figure out what time works best for me. Do I take it every 8 hours or perhaps 6 hour intervals will work better? Do I need the first dose as soon as I wake up, or maybe I don't need it for several hours? Maybe taking that last dose right before bedtime makes it more difficult to go to sleep or maybe I need to set an alarm and have a dose and a glass of water on my nightstand. Maybe I only need two a day and not three or maybe I need really four. I'm the only one who can figure this out. 
These were my settings a year ago!
It is the same with my DBS settings. The Doc gives me parameters for a reason, so I can tweak the settings myself. Trying to figure out the best combinations of settings and medicine takes time, but if you get it right, your quality of life will improve.

Michael J. Fox has said something similar to: Living with Parkinson's is like you are standing in the street, you know a bus is coming and that you will get hit, just not when or how hard it will be.
Well, I say, "Don't just stand there waiting, jump on the bus and drive it yourself!" Take control of your disease and figure out what works best for you!    

Drive your own Parkie Bus!!!
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Will I See YOU in Portland at the World Parkinson Congress?

The 4th World Parkinson Congress is taking place in September of 2016 in Portland, Oregon and my Wonderful Husband and I plan to attend. 

So, what is a World Parkinson Congress?

"The triennial World Parkinson Congresses provide an international forum for dialogue on the latest scientific discoveries, medical practices, and caregiver initiatives related to Parkinson’s disease.
Each Congress brings together physicians, neuroscientists, a broad range of other health professionals, care partners, and people with PD (PwPs) for a unique and inspiring experience. Cross pollinating members of the community is important in the effort to expedite the discovery of a cure and cultivate best treatment practices for this devastating disease." 

You can learn more or register to attend at

Why am I going? For two reasons. 
1. To get a chance to meet, in person, so many Parkies from around the world that I have interacted with online via chat-rooms, Twitter, Facebook & email.
2. To get to speak to and ask questions of researchers and top Parkinson's disease specialists without feeling like I am bothering them. Maybe some will actually have answers. 

I was supposed to attend the last one in Montreal back in 2013, but between all the surgeries, breast cancer and depression, it just didn't work out. It's okay though, because Portland, Oregon is a lot closer than Montreal and I won't have to speak French. (Je ne parle pas bien l'anglais quelques jours!)

Travel to Portland also means I don't have to fly, we can drive. It's not that I am afraid to fly; it's just more comfortable for me to travel by car. Besides, there are places we'd like to see en route and back. We plan to go there through Nevada and the Columbia River Gorge and return via the coastlines of Oregon and California.  

The Congress is a multi-day event, with multiple sessions going on at the same time, so there's bound to be something interesting to do each day. If not, I can always hang out in the Book Nook (where my Parkinson's Humor book will be available), visit with Parkies in the Renewal Room or do some sight seeing.

If you are reading this, and will also be attending, I look forward to meeting you in person. Send me an email at so we can get to know each other ahead of time. See YOU in PORTLAND! 

YumaBev is ready for a Parkie Party in Portland! 

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Financial Exploitation: Don't Become a Victim

It usually starts with a fender bender. You misjudged how far away the pole in the handicap parking space was and now there's a small dent in your front bumper. You're embarrassed, so you tell no one, not your family, not even the insurance company. It could happen to anyone, you say to yourself.

Then you bump into the front garage wall as you are parking. I was distracted; you say to yourself, I'll put down a brick to remind me where to stop. That will fix the problem. 

The next time you are on your way to the store, you almost get hit because you forgot to look both ways at that STOP sign near your house. Now, you get nervous every time you have to drive somewhere, so you start limiting your outings and take more back roads.

At your next Doctors visit, the Doc asks about your driving abilities and you say, I don't go out much. The Doc says, maybe it's time to give up driving? You say, you'll think about it. 

But how will you get to the store? Your children live elsewhere or are busy with their own lives, plus you don't want them to think you are old and feeble. You don't want to impose on friends or neighbors; so you look at the ads on the community bulletin board outside the grocery store. And boom, she has you. You are about to be financially exploited and you don't even have a clue.     

The first thing she does is try to be extra friendly. She will ask about your children, how often they come over, do they live nearby. The less they see of you, the happier she will be. She'll tell you about her family and how she took care of her Grandma or Grandpa and that's why she enjoys helping older people. She'll disable your car when you aren't looking, by pulling a wire or disconnecting the battery cable. When it won't start, she will say, don't worry about getting it fixed; I'll drive you anyplace you want to go.  

Soon, she will be calling you Grandpa or Auntie when you are out in public. She wants the checker at the grocery store and the bank teller to think she's family. Then she will start making snide comments about how little your own children care about you. 

She'll recommend people that she knows to cut your hair, mow your lawn or fix your leaky toilet. She'll distance you from everyone you used to know. Soon, every person you see is a friend of hers. She has slowly taken control of your life and you don't even realize it.

She may tell you that she knows a "better Doctor" for you to see. She'll help you fill out the forms, now she has your date of birth and social security number. She innocently says, why don't you put me down as your emergency contact? Your kids are too busy to deal with your problems, but I will always be here for you.

Then she'll take over dispensing your medicines, and add in a bunch of "vitamins." When you complain about feeling wobbly or confused, she'll offer to help you more and more. She may offer to move in to your home in case you fall at night.

Then she'll start complaining about how she is losing money from her other clients because she spends so much time with her favorite, you. She'll ask if she can borrow some money from you to pay her electric bill. Next it will be her rent. Then one of her children will be in an accident, and of course, she has no insurance. Then her car will need repairs and she can't use yours because it doesn't start. Soon you'll be giving her more and more. What other choice do you have? You need her, she has seen to that. Your address book has mysteriously disappeared and all the phone numbers on speed dial somehow got erased. 

She'll warn you not to answer the phone when she's not there. She'll say there are bad people out to get you or her. She doesn't want you blabbing to friends or family about her, so she'll tell you to keep your friendship a secret.  

She'll offer to get your mail, and help you write out checks. She'll bring her family over, and things will go missing. If you notice, she'll say it got broken or she'll say, don't you remember giving that to my son for his birthday? 

She will target the accounts that are in your name only. She's afraid to touch the others because she can't be sure the other person listed isn't getting duplicate statements. During inclement weather, she'll offer to go to the store or bank for you. She will tell the clerk, its okay, I'm family and you aren't feeling well. 

She will offer to update the info on your bank accounts, life insurance policies and everything else she can think of. She will make sure you are confused, and ask you to sign blank forms. Then she will change the beneficiary to her name. She's a master thief. 

If you are lucky, she'll disappear when everything is gone. If you aren't lucky, she may figure out a way for you to accidentally slip and drown in your bathtub.

Please, don't become a victim. If you live by yourself and need help, get it through an accredited agency. Let your family members know what is going on. Add a second trusted person to all your financial accounts and ask the companies to send duplicate statements to the other person. Ask your friends and neighbors for help. Most will be glad to drive you to the store or Doctors office. If you are embarrassed to ask, think of how much more embarrassed you will be when every penny you had is gone? These criminals know who to target.   

I know exactly how these thieves work because my Dad was a victim. She did all of the above. When I confronted her, she bragged about how she'd done it before and gotten away with it. The only financial account she didn't touch was the one with MY name on it. My Dad had added my name after my Mom died. Nothing she took was recovered, by the time I figured out everything she'd done, she had disappeared. My Dad was too confused to remember whether he had signed stuff or not and without his testimony, there was nothing that could be done. I used she in my story, but there are men thieves out there, too.

How did I know something was wrong? My Dad offered to fly out to visit me. She did not want me coming back home. She didn't know that my Dad absolutely hated to fly. As soon as he suggested it, I knew something was terribly wrong. 

If you suspect a family member, neighbor, or even one of your customers is being exploited, please REPORT IT! Search for "Adult Protective Services" or "Elder Abuse" online and make a phone call. In most cases, you can remain anonymous. You may save someone's dignity and maybe their life. 

Afterwards, I had bank tellers, neighbors and grocery store clerks tell me they thought something strange was going on. One bank teller told his supervisor about his suspicions, but no one reported it. Don't become a victim. Let's all watch out for each other. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

An Interesting Surprise for Father's Day

My Wonderful Husband and I had just finished eating our breakfast yesterday morning, which was Father's Day here in the USA. I had my usual bowl of cereal and he had eggs and toast. As I was washing the dishes, a strange site greeted me. I saw THIS as I looked out through the kitchen window blinds.

What is it?
Is that a snake in the middle of our street? Or something else? I kept looking as I finished the dishes. A car came around the corner and suddenly stopped. The object was right in front of the car and never moved. I thought they were going to get out but they just looked at my neighbors cacti in bloom and then drove off. I was surprised they did not run over it, whatever "it" was.

Curiosity got the best of me, I had to go look and, of course, I brought my camera and a broomstick with me. It WAS a snake and it was dead. Good thing, because it was a western diamondback rattlesnake! I snapped a quick photo and then decided to move it out of the street, before we both got run over. I used the broomstick, I may be a bit crazy, but I'm not insane. I'm not going to touch a rattlesnake, not even a dead one. 

I've always been sort of a tomboy and am quite curious about all sorts of critters. Once I got it out of the street, I could take a closer look. I have no idea how it died. It was not squashed, so it hadn't been run over. Maybe a roadrunner got it (yes, roadrunners will kill snakes.)   

Roadrunner looking for food
So, how did I know what kind of snake it was? I looked at the tail. See those black and white rings just above the rattles? Those are the markings of a western diamondback. They are quite common in Arizona, although this is the first one I've seen in at least 10 years. 

I measured it and it was just over 2 feet long. They can be as long as 7 feet. After I took photos, I made sure it was out of the way, so any curious children wouldn't find it and came back inside to work on this story.

I went back out this morning to see if it was still there, and there was nothing left, except some scales and the rattles. I don't know what happened to the rest of it. Perhaps an animal hauled it off over night, or maybe an early morning walker took it for its skin, all I know is it's gone. 

The rattles are made of keratin, they same stuff our fingernails are made of. The snakes gain a new rattle each time they shed their skin. Rattlers can shake their rattles 50 times per second and continue it for several hours! And we thought Parkinson's tremors were bad? 

I hope it's at least 10 more years before I see another one, at least one that close to home.